As the temperature begins to drop, it serves as a reminder that we have some major holidays right around the corner. And remembering Halloween costumes, planning travel and then adding in holiday gifts, it’s no wonder that this time of year is identified as a time when national stress levels rise the most.
More than 70% of adults admit to feeling stress or anxiety on a daily basis in the U.S. And increased stress levels can have serious adverse health effects causing damage to your heart, increasing the prevalence of diseases, and even harming your teeth.
First, let’s look at how lowering stress can actually save your life, then we’ll give you the easy (we promise!) ways to bring balance back into your life.
How is stress harmful?
Are you getting sick over and over? Is that causing even more stress in your life? Well, those other stresses could be the reason that you’re getting sick in the first place!
You’ll hear that increased stress levels lead to issues such as obesity and diabetes. This is due to the fact that stress causes higher levels of the hormone cortisol, and that in turn increases the amount of fat deposited in the stomach. In addition to being annoying, stomach fat is the most dangerous of all excess fat deposits and can cause more serious issues like heart diseases. Those who are experiencing high stress levels are also more likely to have high blood pressure and heart problems. For that reason, people who have chronic heart problems need to avoid acute stress—and learn how to successfully manage life’s unavoidable stresses—as much as they can.
All that said, a sometimes-overlooked health issue caused by stress is teeth grinding. Most commonly, teeth grinding occurs while you sleep. And while it doesn’t cause immediate complications, over time it will lead to tooth damage that could necessitate crowns, tooth restoration, or jaw surgery. In addition, it can lead to TMJ syndrome, which occurs as a result of the temporomandibular joint (the joint that connects your jaw to your skull) becoming injured or damaged. In severe cases, TMJ sufferers may need jaw surgery to relieve the pain.
And the more damaged your teeth and jaw are, the harder good nutrition will be. Which can lead to weight gain. Which can lead to more stress! It’s a vicious cycle.
I’m already stressed for time…how do I fit in stress relief?
Adding more things to your already-packed day may seem counterintuitive. However, we’ve compiled a top-10 list of things you can do for just a few minutes every day that will help lower you stress levels and bring more joy to your life. Every second of these activities is worth it! We kept our list short so you can get right to work incorporating some of these things into your life…don’t delay!
1. Exercise, even if it’s just a couple moves a few times a week.
2. Make sure you aren’t nutrient deficient
3. Use essential oils or burn a scented candle wherever you’re most stressed
4. Lower your caffeine intake
5. Chew sugar free gum (it’s good for your teeth, too!)
6. Prioritize time with friends and family
7. Work on saying “No”
8. Practice deep breathing or meditation
9. Cuddle your pet
10. Don’t procrastinate
Don’t feel like you have to incorporate all of these activities into your schedule at once—that could cause you to stress out even more! Just try to carve our 10-20 minutes and practice one of the suggestions above a few times a week for a few weeks. Some of these, like chewing gum, don’t even require you to step away from your daily activities.
Like all habits, it takes 21 days for something to stick, so don’t give up if you don’t see immediate results. Removing stress is essential for a happy and healthy life!
Also published on Medium.